Review: “In the Red and Brown Water,” the Murky Waters of Life

Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play mixes the mundane with the mythic, drawing on Yoruban influences of West Africa while setting the play in a modern urban context, a housing project in the fictional Bayou city of San Pere, Louisiana.

Diarra Kilpatrick, Gilbert Glenn Brown and Company. Photo by Ed Krieger

Diarra Kilpatrick, Gilbert Glenn Brown and Company. Photo by Ed Krieger

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – (Sunday, October 21, 2012) – The latest Los Angeles premiere at the Fountain Theatre, “In the Red and Brown Water”, will catch your attention from now until December 16.

With the holidays fast approaching, this is the show to see at the Fountain Theatre.

Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play mixes the mundane with the mythic, drawing on Yoruban influences of West Africa while setting the play in a modern urban context, a housing project in the fictional Bayou city of San Pere, Louisiana.

The storyline centers around the beautiful Oya, a young runner with enormous promise, forced to choose between her ailing mother and her own dreams. How far will Oya go to make a mark? A telling performance that thrust a young girl into womanhood: Two men vying for her heart and her subsequent fall into the murky waters of life.

Under the direction of Miss Shirley Jo Finney, the production leaves you no doubt that this live theatre depicts the “oral tradition of storytelling”. The playwright is known for his precision of a ‘story in a story’ that is told to the audience by artists.

According to Miss Finney, the playwright adds the dimension of the actors being actors, acting. The actors are actually talking to the audience by stating their narration and then they become the characters.

For example, the stage directions may say, “Oya smiles and looks at Shango” on the written page. Oya actually says that to the audience, then she performs the action. “So, the audience is always aware that the actor is acting and it is a great way to capture the audience,” according to Miss Finney.

At the outset, the stage directions were left to the wonderment of the audience, but quickly became a rhythm in the play and actually helped the audience stay focus.

Finney, an award-winning international director and actress, has been in the business for forty years. She started as a professional actress, best known for her portrayal of the title role Wilma, in the Wilma Rudolph story.

She was the first woman of color to be in the MFA program at the UCLA School of Television, Film and Theatre. And despite her busy schedule Shirley finds time to mentor to young female directors interested in storytelling.

When asked about the advice that she would give to a young person considering becoming a director, Miss Finney replied, “Believe in your dreams, have faith in yourself. If you don’t, no one will.” “Investment in myself brought me to where I am now [today].”

The Finney/history of collaboration began with From the Mississippi Delta, which garnered a 1997 Drama-logue Award; The Ballad of Emmett Till, which earned her the Finney 2010 Ovation Award directing honors.

The cast is composed of Diarra Kilpatrick (Oya), Theodore Perkins (Elegba), Dorian Christian Baucum (Ogun), Peggy A, Blow (Mama Mojo), Iona Morris (Aunt Elegua), Maya Lynne Robinson (Nia), Simone Missick (Shun), Gilbert Glenn Brown (Shango), Stephen Marshall (O Li Roon), and Stephen Chu Cary (The Egungun).

“In the Red and Brown Water” continues through December 16th at The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Avenue, Los Angeles (323) 663-1525, www.fountaintheatre.com.

This article originally appeared in CaribPress.

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